- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 3, 2006

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — The streets of this gambling capital have become more dangerous for prostitutes — with a serial killer on the loose and several streetwalkers having been strangled, smothered, slashed and set ablaze.

So far this year, six prostitutes are thought to have been killed in or near Atlantic City, a seventh survived after her throat was slashed. Countless others may have been assaulted but chose not to report the crimes to police.

A serial killer is feared as likely in the deaths of four women, ranging from 20 to 42, whose bodies were found facedown in a ditch last month behind a string of seedy motels just outside the city.

“It’s dangerous, but all you’re focused on is that next dollar,” said a prostitute known on the streets as Spazz, who is looking for a gun or a knife to protect herself. “It kind of clouds your judgment. You’re not focused on the situation you’re getting into. That’s the scariest part about it.”

Authorities do not think the four bodies found Nov. 20 just off the Black Horse Pike in neighboring Egg Harbor Township are related to the attacks on three prostitutes earlier this year along Georgia Avenue. In each of the three earlier attacks, the prostitutes’ throats were slashed and one survived.

Atlantic County prosecutor Jeffrey Blitz said the Atlantic City cases were sufficiently different from the Egg Harbor deaths to make authorities think they were carried out by different attackers. He also resists speculation that the four ditch bodies were the work of a serial killer, noting that autopsies could not determine the cause of death for two of the women. No arrests have been made in any of this year’s attacks in and near Atlantic City.

In any case, the attacks illustrate how dangerous it is for prostitutes, who are statistically 18 times more likely to be killed than other women, and 40 times more likely to die from something other than natural causes, according to national studies.

A study of the murder rate among prostitutes from 1981 to 1990 found that an average of 124 were killed each year in the United States, according to a 2004 article in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The violence has prompted other Atlantic City prostitutes to arm themselves. Christine, 37, who works out of a cheap motel on Pacific Avenue near the entrance to several casinos, bought pepper spray after the bodies were found in the ditch.

She said she and other prostitutes she knows have stopped accompanying men on trips to motels on “The Pike,” preferring to stick closer to home and meet clients in cars or motel rooms.

“We’re all talking about it, and I’m still ready to jump in the first car that comes along,” she said.

Bunny, a prostitute in her early 20s who also works on Pacific Avenue, said she has temporarily left that business and switched to peddling drugs.

“This is no kind of life,” she said. “None of us graduates from high school thinking, ‘We’re going to end up doing this.’ ”

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